I’ve been wearing my Eagles stuff around town, now that they’re in the Super Bowl this coming weekend. I figure I should show willing. My boss, an avid Packers fan, has even given me permission to wear Eagles stuff to the office since she knows how big of a deal this is. “And they’re not playing the Packers,” she added, which is only fair.
It’s kind of surprising how much support I’ve gotten for it.
I’m guessing that a lot of it isn’t so much “Go Eagles!” as it is “Go Anyone But The Patriots!” I can live with that. The Patriots have been in the last thirty-five consecutive Super Bowls and won twenty-eight, a surprising number of them under a cloud of suspicion, and really it’s time for someone else to win for a change. Dynasties are boring in professional sports.
And the Eagles don’t make themselves cute and cuddly for new fans, either. They play hard on the field, they’re outspoken off the field (listen to Malcolm Jenkins sometime – no, really, listen to the man), and they play for a fan base that hasn’t got time for your shit, frankly. There’s a reason the old Veterans Stadium had a functioning municipal courtroom in the basement.
Yet everywhere I go people come up to me and tell me that they’re fans. Not just anti-Patriots, but actually Eagles fans. There’s a guy who lives next door who has been chatting with me about this since he moved in a couple of years ago. People stop me in the grocery store. On the way to the barn to feed the chickens there’s a house with an Eagles flag, one that has been there long before the current success. Plus, I run into other people wearing Eagles gear all around here, many of whom have never even been to Philadelphia.
For the older ones, it’s usually Randall Cunningham who brought them into the fold. For the younger ones, maybe it was just not wanting to cheer for whomever their brothers and sisters were cheering for and deciding that the team in green was their harbor. There’s a lot of reasons.
You can say a lot of negative things about professional sports in general, and many of them will be true. You can say a lot of negative things about American football in particular, and many of those will be true too. But one thing that those activities do definitely bring to us is a sense of community. A sense of belonging. A sense of commonality with people whom we might otherwise dismiss with casual snark in these divided times.
That has to count for something.
I remember once listening to a friend of mine describe an event in a book he was reading – a book written by a professor of English, a fellow academic in other words, and someone whose work I both admire and occasionally assign in my history classes. The professor found himself in the back of a taxi and was simply aghast that the taxi driver would presume to ask him what he thought about the home team’s chances that season. I don’t expect him to know about literature, the professor complained, why should I be expected to know about sports?
Even as a proud ivory tower academic, that struck me as both short-sighted and callous.
You should know about your own community. You should make an effort to know about other communities. And when people of good will seek to bring you into their community through conversation, you should be gracious about it. A simple “I don’t know, I don’t really follow them. What do you think?” would have been enough, really.
So I will wear my Eagles gear here in southern Wisconsin, where Packerland bleeds into Bears Country, and I will enjoy the conversations that arise from it. It's nice to be reminded that there are things that unite us, even now.